Deliveristas March to Demand Protection on the Willis Avenue Bridge and Beyond
Dozens of delivery workers demanded on Monday that the NYPD increase security measures to keep them safe from criminals — especially on one of their key routes to and from work: the Willis Avenue Bridge, where workers have been repeatedly beaten and robbed and one was killed nearby.
About 85 delivery workers — including restaurant workers, DoorDash gig employees and pharmacy delivery workers — marched en masse to the 40th Precinct house on E. 138th Street in Mott Haven and later rode to the 25th Precinct station house on E. 119th Street in Harlem to express their frustration with the slew of attacks against them.
“The bridge is one of the most dangerous in the city and a place where assaults and robberies are frequently committed,” said Sergio Solano, one of the leaders of a new deliverista advocacy group, El Diario de los Deliveryboys en la Gran Manzana (The Diary of the Delivery Boys in the Big Apple).
Solano and other delivery workers have been the targets of criminals on the bridge — and enhanced their activism after a delivery worker was robbed on June 14 during his shift. Such robberies occur in part because the bike path can be accessed from several stairways along the bridge, meaning that bike riders don’t know that an assailant is waiting for him or her in the darkness of the span.
It is unclear what was taken in the June 14 incident, but the suspect apparently dropped his phone — which contained pictures of him — on the bridge during the robbery. The victim gave the phone to 40th Precinct cops, who arrested a suspect on June 23, police said.
Juan Delgado, 27, was charged with robbery, grand larceny, assault and possession of stolen property.
But there have been many other incidents when workers have been forced to hand over their bikes or cash — and if they refuse, they are assaulted, Solano said. In addition, delivery worker Francisco Villalva Vitino was killed in March near the bridge after refusing to give up his e-bike — the basic tool of his livelihood — to a robber.
“The unfortunate event has us outraged and we do not want this kind of crime to continue happening,” said Solano on behalf of himself and other workers, who are mostly immigrants and are people of color who are frequently mistreated by criminals, the police and even local officials.
The group’s demands, which were presented to both precinct commanders on Monday, include:
- The 25th and 40th precincts must work together better to protect delivery workers traveling across the Willis Avenue Bridge.
- Cameras and lighting should be installed on the bridge.
- The stairs and exits on the middle of the bridge should be closed so criminals will not have the ability to prey on unexpecting workers.
- Officers should enforce rules against illegal mopeds, which are faster than regular bicycles.
“Violence has increased since the beginning of the pandemic and has continued,” the letter stated. “The robberies do not stop, the assaults happen in broad daylight.”
Cops on both sides of the bridge received the group’s letter. The commanding officer of the 40th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Robert Gallitelli, met with the workers in front of his station house, and told them he had met with his cops concerning safety on the bridge. He provided no details about that meeting nor did he reveal any upcoming strategy.
“Now we are waiting for answers,” Solano said. “We are waiting for action. We need more security.”
Violence against delivery workers is obviously not a new topic. A recent story in the New York Times said that thefts of delivery workers’ bikes doubled to 328 thefts last year, up from 166 in 2019. Last month, an unknown assailant attacked delivery worker with a hard traffic plastic tube in Hells Kitchen. The New York Times also reported on a delivery worker being robbed at gunpoint. The publication attributed the rise of crimes against delivery workers to high unemployment rates and the ease of getting cash for a stolen bicycle.
Beyond criminals, delivery workers are frequently victims of New York’s dangerous roadways. Last year, scores of delivery workers were killed or injured in crashes, including Ivan Morales, who was killed by a car driver last year near the Willis Avenue Bridge.